From the Field: Leverage the power of your peers

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By Carol Vesier, Diane Alvarez, Paul Crise and Earl Heaps

The authors are Army acquisition professionals with a combined 100 years of test and evaluation experience. As members of the Army Evaluation Center Emerging Leaders Cohort, they have identified peer feedback as an underutilized technique to improve their organization’s effectiveness.

What would you think if we told you there was a powerful, free technique used for employee development? You might think that we’re just joking, but there is. Leveraging your peers’ feedback is a potent, underutilized tool for developing yourself and others. The following tips can help you unleash the power of peer feedback:

Understand how your peer feedback complements formal coaching, training and mentoring. Like formal coaching, peer feedback is task-focused, while training is skill-focused. Training teaches skills, while peer feedback develops the required skill proficiency to successfully complete a task. Mentoring is career-oriented and can provide a career road map. Both formal coaching and peer feedback support navigating the career road map by eliminating internal obstacles, such as a skill deficit or an unwanted behavior. Finally, peer feedback supports and complements a formal coaching program such as the Leadership Coaching for Acquisition Professionals, a new Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office program.

Embrace peer feedback as a gift. Do you view peer feedback as a positive gift or a negative criticism? The way you and your organization view feedback often determines how effectively you can use it. If you do not know how your organization views feedback, ask yourself how often you solicit or provide feedback. If the answer is not often, it may be that many individuals in your organization view feedback as implied criticism.

Ask your peers for feedback. Most of us expect our supervisors to provide feedback when it is needed. Supervisors often have other commitments that minimize the time they can spend providing feedback to their employees. If you are serious about improving performance and enhancing skills, ask for help. Leverage your supervisor and mentor to identify an improvement opportunity, but also seek out a peer for feedback and assistance. And when selecting someone, remember that you want a peer  who will observe key moments and can provide immediate, targeted feedback.

Be willing to provide feedback to others. Providing feedback should not be a one-way street. Everyone has something that is an obstacle to his or her success. If you want to benefit from feedback, you need to be willing to help others.

Unleashing the power of peer feedback starts with you!

This article was published in the July DACM Newsletter.

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